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探索太空不再是政府的专属
The global technopolitics of space exploration

来源:FT中文网    2018-02-12 07:29



        It is best described as ballistic ballet. Last week, the most powerful rocket in the world pierced the stratosphere from a Florida launch pad. Not only did the payload survive launch, but the two side boosters later descended gracefully back to the launch area in perfect synchrony.        如果要找一个最恰当的词来形容它,那就是弹道芭蕾。最近,全世界最强大的火箭从位于佛罗里达州的发射台穿入平流层。不仅其载荷在发射后安然无恙,而且两侧捆绑的两个助推器随后完全同步地顺利落回发射区域。
        The spectacular debut of Falcon Heavy, built by the company SpaceX, potentially opens up deep space to reusable rockets, making exploration commercially viable. But it also cedes to the private sector mastery of an infinite territory once monopolised by governments. SpaceX is the costly plaything of Elon Musk, the billionaire cofounder of PayPal and Tesla (the payload was his own Tesla Roadster car, with a mannequin upfront, both now destined to glide about the solar system in perpetuity).        由SpaceX公司打造的猎鹰重型(Falcon Heavy)火箭精彩的首次亮相,可能为可重复使用的火箭飞向外层空间奠定了基础,使得宇宙探索具备了商业可行性。但它也将曾经由政府垄断的对无垠太空的掌控权分给了私营部门。SpaceX是埃隆•马斯克(Elon Musk)昂贵的玩具。这位亿万富翁是PayPal和特斯拉(Tesla)的共同创始人。而此次火箭的载荷正是马斯克自己的Tesla Roadster汽车,车内前座上坐着一个假人,现在它们注定都要在太阳系内永恒遨游了。
        No federal space agency can currently do what SpaceX did. As Marx might have put it, private enterprise has seized the means of propulsion. We are in a new era when it comes to technopolitics, the intersection between technology and politics. While the original space race between the US and the Soviet Union showed off each country’s political ideals through technological prowess, that crossover between innovation and ideology has a different feel today.        目前没有哪个宇航局可以做到SpaceX所实现的事情。马克思可能会说,私人企业掌握了“发射”资料。在科技政治方面(科技与政治交叉的领域),我们正处于一个新时代。虽然最初美国和苏联(Soviet Union)之间的太空竞赛通过技术实力展示了各自的政治理想,但如今创新和意识形态之间的交叉却给人一种不同的感觉。
        Our technological masters enjoy more power and influence over humanity than ever — with relatively little scrutiny. The question of whether our species colonises another planet — one of the most significant decisions that humankind will ever make — seems more likely today to depend on the whim of an entrepreneur, possibly Mr Musk, than any president.        我们的科技专家享有以往任何时候更多的权力和对人类的影响力——并且几乎不受任何审查。有关我们的物种是否殖民另一个星球的问题——人类将做出的最重要的决定之一——在如今似乎更可能取决于一名企业家(可能是马斯克)的突发奇想,而非任何一位总统。
        Technology overlaps with politics in multiple ways: tech is an enabler, allowing those outside the mainstream to enter the conversation. But it can also be used to hijack or skew that conversation. In the 2016 US election, social media was used to spread political information — and disinformation. Twitter and Facebook became major distributors of tailored political news, putting tremendous political power in the hands of a few companies — creating opportunities for malign manipulation.        技术以很多方式与政治重叠在一起:科技是实现手段,让主流以外的人可以参与对话。但技术也可以被用来劫持或歪曲对话。在2016年美国大选中,社交媒体被用来传播政治信息——以及虚假信息。Twitter和Facebook成了定制化政治新闻的主要传播途径,把巨大的政治权力交到不多的几家公司手中——为恶意操纵创造了机会。
        Technology can, of course, be employed more overtly for political means, in the form of cyber aggression. One country can unleash mayhem by hacking another country’s information systems and infrastructure; this, says the Rand Corporation, is an increasingly brazen threat to global stability. Russia and China are viewed as the main culprits, seemingly united by a wish to undermine western democracy.        当然,科技可以更公开地被用作政治手段——以网络攻击的形式。一个国家可以通过侵入另一个国家的信息系统和基础设施来制造混乱;兰德公司(RAND Corporation)称,这正日益成为对全球稳定的严重威胁。俄罗斯和中国被视为这种威胁的主要制造者,两国似乎出于破坏西方民主的共同愿望联合了起来。
        The great fortunes minted in Silicon Valley allow entrepreneurs to blur the technopolitical boundaries still further: Mr Musk’s modest goals include saving humanity and colonising Mars. Those aspirations, along with his business acumen, have landed him on advisory boards in US president Donald Trump’s administration. Mr Musk shares a penchant for the Red Planet with the president, who dreams of sending Americans to Mars (the moon is so last century). Since Nasa’s human space flight programme has been scaled back, Mr Trump must rely on private initiative to achieve a public goal.        硅谷创造的巨额财富使得企业家进一步模糊了科技与政治的边界:马斯克的“小目标”包括拯救人类和殖民火星。这些抱负,连同他的商业头脑,使他进入了美国总统唐纳德•特朗普(Donald Trump)政府的顾问委员会。马斯克和特朗普一样对那颗红色星球抱有浓厚兴趣,后者的梦想是把美国人送上火星(月球是上个世纪的事,已经过时)。由于美国国家航空航天局(NASA)载人航天计划的经费缩减,特朗普必须依靠私营部门的行动来实现这一公共目标。
        There are, in fact, less vainglorious reasons for revisiting the final frontier. The Pentagon now lists space as a “warfighting domain”. Both Russia and China are said to be targeting American space assets, with Putin reportedly keen to develop a super-heavy rocket. An increasingly confident China wants to send taikonauts to mine the moon and then to Mars (although its upgrade of the Long March rocket fleet stumbled after a failed launch last year).        事实上,重返这一“最后疆界”并没有多少虚荣心方面的理由。五角大楼如今将太空列为一个“作战领域”。俄罗斯和中国据说都正在瞄准美国的太空资产,普京据称渴望研发一款超级重型火箭。越来越自信的中国希望把中国宇航员送上月球进行探测,然后再登陆火星(尽管去年的发射失败导致长征(Long March)系列运载火箭升级计划受挫)。
        Now SpaceX owns the most powerful launcher in the world — although still not as mighty as the Saturn V rockets that sent Apollo astronauts to the moon — its importance to US strategic interests is likely to soar. It has already made itself internationally indispensable by delivering cargo to the International Space Station. When it comes to what the US can achieve in space, it is fair to say Mr Musk enjoys growing leverage.        如今,SpaceX拥有世界运载能力最强的现役火箭——尽管仍不如阿波罗计划(Apollo)将宇航员送上月球的土星5号(Saturn V)火箭那么强大——该公司对美国战略利益的重要性很可能飙升。通过向国际空间站(International Space Station)运送货物,SpaceX已经成为国际上一支不可或缺的太空探索力量。应该承认的是,马斯克在越来越大程度上影响着美国在太空领域能取得什么样的成就。
        Space is a perfect arena for billionaires to act out their technopolitical dreams (as long as they comply with Federal Aviation Administration launch licences) — governance is sketchy. It is hard to keep track of what is going on up there. It would be joyless, but not wholly inaccurate, to describe Falcon Heavy’s whimsical payload as space junk (fortunately, it is too far out to disturb orbiting satellites).        对亿万富翁而言,太空是一个可以完成他们的科技政治梦想的完美舞台(只要他们遵守联邦航空管理局(Federal Aviation Administration)的发射许可)——那里的监管微乎其微。很难追踪那上面正在发生什么。将猎鹰重型火箭颇为任性的载荷形容为太空垃圾(幸亏距离地球太遥远、不会干扰轨道卫星)虽然有些扫兴,但也并非完全不准确。
        As in the Wild West and cyber space, the first prospectors can operate with relative impunity. The international treaties and norms were laid down decades ago for national space agencies, rather than for today’s so-called NewSpace industry. Regulators are waking up to the need for greater oversight, especially as we enter a new, for-profit spacefaring age.        正如在“蛮荒西部”(Wild West)和网络空间一样,第一批探险者可以相对不担心受到责罚地做任何事情。现有的国际条约和规范是几十年前制定的,针对的是国家航天机构,而不是今天所谓“新航天”(NewSpace)工业。监管机构已经意识到需要加强监管,尤其是在我们进入一个新的、以营利为目的的太空探索时代之际。
        So, let us applaud SpaceX for its inspirational achievement — a result of astronomical ambition, commercial shrewdness and engineering supremacy. Let us be wowed by the brilliance of it all. But let us also remember that technopolitics is boldly going where we have never gone before: it is a private technology company, rather than any government, that has become most closely associated with the idea of expanding the cosmic footprint of our species.        所以,让我们为SpaceX取得的鼓舞人心的成就而喝彩——这是天文野心、商业考量和至高工程水平的结果。让我们为这一切的伟大之处而赞叹。但我们也要记住,科技政治正大胆地走向我们从未涉足的领域:如今变得与扩大人类宇宙足迹的理想最为密切相关的,是一家私人科技公司,而非任何政府。
        The writer is a science commentator        本文作者是一位科学评论员
                
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